The Herald Bulletin

April 18, 2013

Local man charged with alleged rent-to-own scheme

State attorney general’s office files lawsuit

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — The Indiana attorney general’s office has filed a civil lawsuit against a prominent Anderson real estate broker and civic activist for allegedly running a rent-to-own scheme in which he failed to pay insurance premiums and property taxes.

Roger Shoot and his wife, Pamela, are named as defendants in the case, which was assigned to Madison Circuit Court 6. Roger Shoot, through a statement sent to The Herald Bulletin by his attorney, contests the allegations. Pamela Shoot could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

State authorities are seeking an injunction and restitution, court costs and civil penalties.

In a separate complaint filed with the Indiana Real Estate Commission, the attorney general’s office seeks permanently to revoke or suspend Roger Shoot’s real estate principal broker’s license. Pamela Shoot is not named in the complaint filed with the Real Estate Commission.

According to the filings, Roger Shoot, through his company, P.R. Properties LLC, sold four Anderson houses to consumers using rent-to-own agreements. He allegedly collected and then pocketed more than $9,200 from at least five buyers that was supposed to pay insurance premiums and property taxes.

Roger Shoot used the money for personal expenses at pharmacies, restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, when it should have been held in special trust funds and used to pay taxes and insurance, according to the lawsuit.

In four real estate transactions specifically cited, Roger Shoot was the deeded owner of properties, but failed to record his ownership interest to “conceal and misrepresent the true deeded owner of record for the properties,” according to the complaint.

“Our investigation revealed Mr. Shoot led consumers to believe they were buying a home and then unlawfully collected and squandered away their escrow payments,” said Gabrielle Owens, deputy director of the Attorney General’s Licensing Enforcement and Homeowner Protection Unit.

“Often, buyers invested their time and money into these properties before realizing their payments had been misused and their No. 1 asset — homeownership — was unjustly taken.”

In at least two instances, tax payments were so severely delinquent, the properties were sold at tax sales without the buyer’s knowledge.

When that occurred, according to the attorney general’s complaint, Roger Shoot allegedly directed an employee to buy back the property, and turn the deed over to Roger Shoot, which constituted one of the key deceptive practices he engaged in.

In another instance, an employee of Roger Shoot allegedly notarized a memorandum of contract stating that a seller, who had died more than 26 years earlier, personally appeared before her and signed a contract. That employee acted at Roger Shoot’s direction, according to the attorney general’s office.

On Tuesday, Roger Shoot agreed to discuss allegations contained in the attorney general’s complaint with The Herald Bulletin but later canceled the interview on advice from his lawyer, David McNamar, and issued a statement instead.

In the statement, McNamar said he had not yet had time to digest the complaint completely. His initial response, however, was that the complaint “contains a great deal of hearsay statements that will have to be investigated.”

That inquiry, McNamar said, will involve taking depositions from individuals, and reviewing documents cited but not attached to the complaint.

“Also, it seems that many of the delinquent taxes complained about occurred well before Mr. Shoot had any interest in the properties.

“Additionally, there are numerous instances of speculation by the drafters of the complaint as to Mr. Shoot’s intentions in taking certain actions,” McNamar said.

According to a profile on his business website, Creative Real Estate, Shoot said he’s been helping people achieve their dream of homeownership for nearly 25 years. A graduate of Madison Heights High School and Anderson University, Roger Shoot also served in the U.S. Army.

He was a driving force in the creation of the Anderson Community Schools Hall of Fame and has served on the editorial board of The Herald Bulletin. Pamela Shoot is the director of programming for the Youth and Adult Leadership Academies of Madison County.

According to Erin Reece, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, Stacey Carnahan filed a consumer complaint after he was notified that the home he had made payments on was sold at tax sale. His home was one of the houses that was later redeemed by Roger Shoot.

Carnahan filed the complaint in August 2011, and the attorney general’s office has been conducting an investigation since then, Reece said.

Reece also said a copy of the lawsuit would be forwarded to Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings for review.

Cummings said this week he had not yet seen the complaint and could not say whether criminal charges would be filed.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.